Monday, September 22, 2003

I re-registered to vote, got my student bus pass for the semester, and fixed my 1D thermoelastic code for today. I did a few other things, but not so many that I was impressed with myself. I worked some this evening, but I also took some time to visit Trader Joe's to buy ginger cookies, tea, and rolls for lunch for a few days.

I'm digesting a lot of things right now. Part of the process of doing that digestion is to spend a lot of time staring into space. Sometimes I look like I'm daydreaming; sometimes I daydream in truth. But for me, time spent staring at a wall is as vital as time spent staring at papers and code, or as time spent scribbling page after page of scribbled equations and interspersed with question mark. I know this is true, yet I still find it frustrating not to be able to point to something concrete at the end of the week and say There! I have worked well, and that's the evidence.

Think, think, think, as a certain stuffed bear was wont to say.

I remember talking to Kahan once about his days as a graduate student. He said there was a courtyard where people would walk and think. No e-mail or phone calls, just time to think. And that, he concluded, is a problem for students now: where is the time to think? I'm not sure I believe there was such an idyllic time, though I wasn't there to witness either way. Online time has its own stresses, but the computer also simplifies tasks, both as an assistant to computation and as an aid to data management and communication. The only trick is the ability to walk away from the computer, perhaps to scribble on a pad, perhaps to stare into space over a cup of tea.

I spent yesterday neither staring into space nor staring at a computer. Instead, I spent the afternoon and early evening wandering about San Francisco with Winnie. She's good company, lively and funny. We walked from the Powell Street BART station through Chinatown to the north edge, then turned at Pier 39 and walked west along the coast to the Palace of Fine Arts. Then we walked back along the coast, with a break for ice cream at Ghiradelli's square. Then we took the trolley to near where she parked. She drove me to my place, and I made tea; but since it was late and neither of us were all that hungry, we decided to save dinner for another day.

It was a day of no math, unless you count the conversation about the chimney decoration that reminded me of an integral sign. I thought that someone might make an action show starring me, in which the transitions were marked by a spinning integral sign zooming into the screen and then zooming back out, as the old Batman episodes had transitions with a bat spinning in and out. Winnie thought it might make also make a good hood ornament. And I did only a little work at the computer, and that in the morning. I did no computer work, either, except in the morning. But we walked and talked and enjoyed the day, and that's important, too.

Tomorrow morning, I meet with people to talk about simulating damping mechanisms in resonators. And that will be fun, too.

  • Currently drinking: Black tea with peach